Police forces unite to tackle hare coursing

Police officers from across central and eastern England are joining forces to tackle the seasonal blight of illegal hare coursing on farms.

With harvest now complete, Suffolk, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex police forces are working in partnership with the NFU, Natural England and the CLA to tackle this criminal activity.

Hare coursing, which has been banned for more than a decade, sees greyhounds and other “sight” hounds, such as lurchers, chasing a hare by sight, not scent.

See also: Hare coursing – what you need to know if your farm is targeted

Groups of up to 50 people exchange large bets on the outcome, which is determined by the first dog to catch and “turn” the hare, or kill it.

Operation Galileo is targeting hare coursing throughout the east of England. This is the first “season” that all six forces in the east are co-operating in relation to hare coursing operations.

Special days of action are planned, which involve wildlife crime officers carrying out proactive patrols along with other officers who will receive special local briefings and pay attention to hotspot areas within their districts, dealing robustly with offenders.

The aim of these operations is to make the countryside a no-go area for these criminals.

Rural sergeant for Hertfordshire Jamie Bartlett said: “Those engaged in this illegal act trespass on private land, damaging crops and property, as well as intimidating and showing violence towards those who challenge their presence.

“It can also be very distressing for members of the public to witness hare coursing.

“We also believe that many of those engaged in hare coursing also commit other offences against the rural community, such as theft of farm machinery, diesel, tools and off-road vehicles.”

NFU seeks tougher penalties

Hertfordshire NFU county advisor in Hertfordshire Rosalind David said: “As well as the illegal killing of wildlife, coursers cause damage to crops, hedges and gates and they are prepared to use violence and intimidation against farmers if challenged.

“Incidents of hare coursing can only be reduced where there is concerted action by farmers, the police, prosecutors and the courts. This includes sentences that reflect the seriousness of the crime, with steps such as seizing the dogs used by coursers and crushing vehicles.”

If you think you are witnessing hare coursing in progress call 999 immediately, or report other information via the non-emergency number 101. Alternatively, contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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